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Election Advisory No. 2018-07

To: County Clerks/Elections Administrators/ County Chairs
From: Keith Ingram, Director of Elections
Keith Ingram's signature
Date: January 25, 2018


Updated Primary Election Procedures

House Bill 1735, (85th Legislature, RS, 2017), effective September 1, 2017, made numerous changes to how primary elections are conducted. While all changes made by House Bill 1735 were mentioned in our 2017 Legislative Summary and will not be discussed here, this advisory will provide additional guidance about the most impactful changes introduced by this bill.

Primary Financing Changes

House Bill 1735 made several changes to the way that expenses are reported to the Secretary of State. First, Section 173.0832 of the Texas Election Code was amended to require all counties contracting with a political party to provide services related to the primary election to directly report primary expenses to the Secretary of State. Each county election officer will need to complete a primary estimate using the Secretary of State's online tool. After the conclusion of the primary and primary runoff, the county election officer will need to report their expenses to the Secretary of State. Our office has also prepared a short video tutorial.

Additionally, Section 173.0833 of the Code was amended to require voting system vendors to report expenses directly to the Secretary of State. Our office has prescribed the format for vendor expenses to be reported to the Secretary of State. The vendors will report any expenses for services, such as printing, programming or technical support, to the Secretary of State and these expenses should not be included as a part of the primary estimate from either the party or the county election officer. Parties and counties should work together to ensure that the Secretary of State is only being invoiced once for costs incurred in association with conducting the primary election.

Candidate Data and Canvassing Changes

House Bill 1735 incorporated data entry for candidate filings and canvassing into the existing system used for reporting election night results to the Secretary of State. Now, the entire process of the primary for an individual candidate, from filing their application for place on the primary ballot to the certification of the canvass, will be available on the Secretary of State’s website. At the time of filing, the candidate’s information from their primary application will be entered on to the website by the appropriate chair. The appropriate chair will then update the respective status of each candidate, and after the filing deadline, the chair will set the ballot order for all candidates that will appear on that county party’s ballot. After the ballot order for the candidates has been completed, the county or vendor, as appropriate, will use the information from the Secretary of State’s website to build their ballot. Additionally, the appropriate chair will notify the Secretary of State’s office of any changes to a candidate’s status, such as ineligibility or rejection of their application due to form, content and procedure.

House Bill 1735 amended Section 172.113 of the Code to require that the unofficial tabulation of results be completed by the county election officer, rather than the party chair. The county will input the unofficial results into the Election Night Returns system for district and statewide races in the same way that the county have done so in the past. However, counties will also now input totals for county-level races into the system prior to the county party’s canvass. The county will have until the 9th day after Election Day to input the unofficial results, including provisional or overseas ballots. Section 172.116(d) of the Code was amended to require the county party to conduct the canvass using the unofficial results input into the Secretary of State’s online system. The county chair will review the unofficial results, make any necessary changes, and certify online. The canvassed county results will then be used by the state chairs to conduct the statewide canvass. Additionally, Section 172.123 of the Code was amended to allow the certification of the canvass on the Secretary of State’s website to serve as placing the election results in the county election register.

Primary Sign and Notice Changes

House Bill 1735 also made several changes to notices and signs given and posted in the polling place. Section 172.1112 of the Code was amended to require the Notice of General Primary Election (PDF) to be posted by the county, although it is still completed by the chair. The content and the posting requirements of the notice have not changed, and as thus, no changes to the Notice of General Primary Election were required. The county and the chairs should coordinate to timely issue and post the notice at the appropriate locations.

Additionally, House Bill 1735 allowed for the posting of two new signs: one to allow voters in a joint primary to indicate their party preference nonverbally and one identifying by name or symbol any political party holding a primary election at a polling place. Our office has prepared a specific advisory on that issue, 2018-06. Please see Advisory 2018-06 for more details.

House Bill 1735 also allowed for the Notice of Convention to be distributed in the polling place. Further, the Certificate of Affiliation can now be combined with the Notice of Convention. Section 172.1114 of the Code was amended to require the state chair to prescribe a general form, approved by the Secretary of State, which can be used in each county. A copy of each party’s approved Notice of Convention has been attached to this email. A county party is able to modify only the date, time, location, and contact information on the notice without prior approval from the Secretary of State. Any other modifications require review and approval by our office prior to distribution. If a county party wishes to generate a notice specific to their county, they are required to submit that notice to the Secretary of State for approval.

If you have any questions or concerns that are not covered by this Advisory, please do not hesitate to contact the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-2216 or elections@sos.texas.gov.